TV review - Horrible Histories: Frightful First World War Special, CBBC


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The Independent Culture

Horrible Histories: Frightful First World War Special is not, strictly speaking, last night's TV. It first aired on CBBC at 9am yesterday morning, but it would be remiss of me not to recommend an iPlayer catch up in the strongest possible terms. Nothing can dislodge Blackadder Goes Forth from its place on the informal school syllabus (especially with Michael Gove's enthusiastic endorsement still ringing in teachers' ears), but this would make a very acceptable substitute.

The Horrible Histories team are known for making history palatable for the young 'uns by putting a comical spin on it, but could that approach ever work on this relatively recent human catastrophe?

The sketches included a brilliant "Historical MasterChef" in which First World War soldier Ernie, impressed the judges with his inventive yet disgusting dishes (Dog'n'Maggot, anyone?). A Charleston-style ditty sung by "The Cousins" (King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicholas II) and a jaunty commercial for that solution to all trench-based problems – "New World War One Wee Wee" ("And how much does it cost? Why, one pee, of course!" That's a classic seven-year-old's gag, that.)

It was silly, all right, but also appropriately sombre: "But the funny thing about the Somme is... no, I've got nothing, sorry."